BELGIUM – August 27, the third day of the ILC’s 2018 World Convention, began with a service of matins, with President Martin Jautzy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church-Synod of France preaching on the nature of the Church. We are individually stones in the building that is the Church, he said, and are held together by Christ, “the Stone that the builders rejected” which stands as the capstone. Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee, Past President of Lutheran Church–Canada and an appointed member of the ILC’s Executive Committee, served as liturgist for the service and as translator for President Jautzy.
Among the first item of business for the day was greetings from Bishop John Bradosky of the North American Lutheran Church, who expressed gratitude for the friendships which have developed between his church and those of the ILC.
The morning also saw a Bible study on St. Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, led by Rev. Wilando Roa, Director of Theological Education by Extension at Lutheran Theological Seminary (Baguio City, The Philippines).
President Matthew C. Harrison of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) then addressed the conference, presenting a gift of books to delegates. One of these books was the new 2017 edition of Luther’s Small Catechism published by Concordia Publishing House (CPH). While the text of the catechism proper remains the same as in the previous edition, the Explanation to the Catechism has been updated and expanded to tackle new issues facing the Church today. The second book gifted to delegates was Closed Communion?, edited by President Harrison and John T. Pless, and also published by CPH. The work collects classic and valuable new essays on the subject of admission to the Lord’s Supper, all from a Biblical Lutheran perspective.
Delegates also received from the ILC their copies of the new two-volume dogmatics series Confessing the Gospel which was presented on a day earlier.
The morning’s work then turned to the matter of elections, with Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany being unanimously reelected as ILC Chairman. (See the full results of elections to the ILC Executive Committee here.)
A featured part of the morning was the next keynote lecture on the convention’s theme of “Ecumenism and Ecclesiology.” Prof. Dr. Werner Klän, Professor Emeritus of Germany’s Lutherische Theologische Hochschule in Oberusel, Germany, unpacked the current status of Lutheran ecumenism and fellowship in Europe, both among the churches of the ILC and those outside it, taking time to examine some of the larger ecumenical agreements which currently hold sway among European Lutheran church bodies.
From there, he turned to consider the challenges of responsible confessional Lutheran ecumenism within the complicated context of the contemporary era, with special reference to examples from the German church.
In the afternoon, delegates enjoyed a walking tour of Antwerp. Of particular interest was a visit to Maarten Luther Plein (Martin Luther Place), a site dedicated in 2017 to remember the influence of the Lutheran reformation in Antwerp. Nearby once stood an Augustinian monastery which, in the early 16th century, saw all of its monks adopt the Lutheran faith. They were subsequently arrested, and two—Johann Esch and Heinrich Voes—would later become the first martyrs of the Reformation, being burned at the stake in Brussels in 1523. Reflections on Esch and Voes, and martyrdom more generally, provided a focus to the sermons and presentations given a day earlier.
Thursday closed with worship at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, with President Abdiel Orozco of the Lutheran Church in Guatemala preaching. He encouraged delegates to remember that we do not need to seek the approval of men, because, through Christ, we have already received the approval of God.
A service of Compline, led by Rev. Timothy Quill, followed.